In the bustling world of education, the spotlight is increasingly turning towards outdoor play and experiences as an essential component of a holistic approach to child development. The great outdoors provides a canvas for exploration, discovery, and experiential learning like no other. But as educators, how do we assess the profound impact outdoor experiences have on a child’s growth and development? In this article, we’ll delve into the realm of assessing outdoor learning, focusing on methods that prioritize the child’s experience and perspective. 

Understanding the Landscape of Outdoor Assessment 

Assessment in outdoor learning does not mean testing children’s knowledge.  It encompasses a rich tapestry of observation, reflection, and documentation that captures the essence of a child’s journey through nature’s classroom. By stepping into the shoes of the child, adults can better appreciate the nuances of their outdoor experiences and learn about children’s knowledge, skills and interests.   

Observation: Unveiling the Story of Exploration 

Observation lies at the heart of assessing children’s interests and learning. Through keen observation, educators can witness firsthand the wonder and curiosity sparked within a child as they interact with the natural world. But it’s not merely about passive observation; it’s about actively engaging with the child, participating in their discoveries, and understanding their thought processes. 

From identifying the different plant species in the forest to observing the intricate patterns of a spider’s web, every moment presents an opportunity for assessment. By observing how a child engages with their surroundings, educators can glean insights into their cognitive, physical, language, literacy and socio-emotional development. 

Portfolio Documentation: Capturing Moments of Growth 

Portfolios serve as a treasure trove of memories, capturing the essence of a child’s outdoor learning journey. Through photographs, videos, artwork, and pictorial or written reflections, portfolios provide a holistic snapshot of the child’s experiences, progress, and achievements. 

Imagine flipping through the pages of a portfolio filled with snapshots of a child building a makeshift shelter, examining leaves under a magnifying glass, or sharing stories around the truck of a tree where bugs were discovered. Each artifact tells a story, encapsulating moments of curiosity, resilience, and creativity. 

The Child’s Perspective: Giving Voice to Experience 

In the realm of outdoor assessment, the child’s perspective takes center stage. It’s about honouring their voice, agency, and sense of ownership over their learning journey. By actively involving children in telling adults about their experiences and learning,  educators can empower them to reflect on their experiences, set goals, and celebrate their achievements. 

From journaling about their favourite outdoor adventures to leading nature walks for their peers, children play an active role in shaping their assessment narratives. By inviting them to share their insights, challenges, and aspirations, educators gain a deeper understanding of the profound impact outdoor learning has on their lives. 

Nurturing Growth in Nature’s Classroom 

Assessing outdoor learning is not just about measuring outcomes; it’s about nurturing growth, curiosity, and resilience in nature’s classroom. By embracing observation, portfolio documentation, and the child’s perspective, educators can create practices that honour the child and the richness of outdoor experiences and inspire a lifelong love for learning. 

So, as we venture forth into the great outdoors, let us embark on a journey of hearing and seeing the children’s voices and celebrate the boundless potential of every child, one discovery at a time. 


Check out our blog post on Embracing Early Spring

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